Human running on surfaces of different stiffnesses

t stiffness. Their expectation was to find a less flexed knee to account for a reduction in metabolic cost as well as an increase in kleg. They further hypothesized that the metabolic costs of forward running reaches a minimum when the kleg of the runner is maximized on surfaces of decreased stiffness.


Eight male subjects [mean body mass: 74.4 7.1 (SD) kg; leg length: 0.96 0.05 m] ran at 3.7 meters/s on a level treadmill fitted with track platforms of five different compliances. All subjects wore the same flat-soled running shoes. Subjects ran for five minutes on each compliant track platforms in a mirrored fashion (running on stiffest to softest and then softest to stiffest). Beaded strings hung from the ceiling to give the runner a tactile sign as to where he needed to run so that his mid step corresponded with the center of the track platform. Video was also used to ensure that the runner was centered and not stepping on both sides of the track simultaneously. The ground reaction force (1000 Hz) was recorded using a force plate and kinematic data (60 Hz) using an infrared motion analysis system. Oxygen consumption data force plate and kinematic data were taken simultaneously, and oxygen consumption data were taken after three minutes of running so that the subject was at a steady state. Subjects participated in two separate trials so that they ran on each compliant surface four times. Averages were taken on each day and then averaged together for all variables measured.


The 12.5-fold decrease in surface stiffness resulted in a 12 percent decrease in the runner's metabolic rate and a 29 percent increase in their leg stiffness. In every case, the support mechanics remained essentially unchanged over the four stiffest surfaces tested.

The experiment findings supported the authors' hypothesis that the metabolic cost of running at an intermediate speed is progressively reduced and

Contact: Donna Krupa
American Physiological Society

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